Irish nationalism and European integration

The official redefinition of the island of Ireland

Author: Katy Hayward

How has it been possible for Irish political leaders to not just accept but actively promote two of the largest challenges to Irish nation-statehood: the concession of sovereignty to the European Union (EU) and the retraction of the constitutional claim over Northern Ireland? This book argues that, rather than indicating a pragmatic retreat, such decisions (and their justification on the public stage) reveal the unique power and enduring relevance of nationalism to Irish and European politics today. As a detailed study of official discourse in twentieth-century Ireland, it traces the ways in which nationalism can be simultaneously redefined and revitalised through European integration. The text moves from an overview of the origins and development of Irish official nationalism to analyse the connections between its response to profound internal and external challenges to Irish nation-statehood. The genius of the Irish approach to such challenges has been to employ innovative EU-inspired concepts in finding agreement with and within Northern Ireland, whilst simultaneously legitimising further European integration on the grounds that it fulfils traditional nationalist ideals. Thus, Irish political leaders have been successful in not only accommodating potent nationalist and pro-European discourses, but in making them appear complementary. The book concludes with an assessment of likely changes in this symbiotic relationship in the post-EU enlargement, post-Celtic Tiger era.

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